Three people died and 33 others were injured in twin suicide bombings targeting Uganda’s capital Kampala on Tuesday, police said, blaming a “domestic terror group” linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for the attacks.
An armed group active in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the ADF has been linked to the Islamic State by Washington and blamed for a string of recent attacks in Uganda.
Two suicide bombers on motorbikes — disguised as local “boda boda” motorcycle taxi drivers — detonated a device near the entrance to parliament, killing a passerby, while a third attacker targeted a checkpoint near the central police station, leaving two people dead, police spokesman Fred Enanga said.
The explosions in Kampala’s central business district occurred within minutes of each other, shortly after 10 am, and left “bodies shattered and scattered” across the sites, he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Enanga told reporters: “The indications are that this is a domestic terror group linked to the ADF.”
Police foiled a third attack, recovering an improvised explosive device at the home of an alleged suicide bomber who was shot and injured, and were in pursuit of other members of the group, Enanga added.
The explosion near the police station shattered windows while the one near the entrance to parliament set cars parked nearby on fire, Uganda’s Assistant Inspector General of police Edward Ochom told AFP earlier.
The attacks follow two blasts last month — a bus explosion near Kampala that wounded many people and a bombing at a roadside eatery in the capital that killed one woman.
Police said last month both those explosions were connected and were carried out by the ADF. Uganda has also blamed the group for a foiled bomb attack in August on the funeral of an army commander who led a major offensive against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.
Salim Uhuru, mayor of Kampala Central, told AFP he was near the police station when he heard the blast.
“It was so loud. I ran towards the police station and saw one policeman I know dead on the ground. His body was scattered like mincemeat,” Uhuru said.
Kyle Spencer, the executive director of Uganda’s Internet Exchange Point, told AFP that the explosions had sparked panic among many people nearby.
“The road to parliament is closed off, there are people just crying, everyone else is just trying to get away from these areas,” he said.
“Everybody is evacuating office buildings and the buildings are locking up and not letting anybody inside.”
Parliament cancelled its Tuesday session, asking members to avoid the area “as security forces are working hard to restore order”.
The premises were put under tight security, with heavily armed soldiers securing the area as forensics officers in white overalls inspected the blast site for clues.
Opposition leader Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said he was “very sad” about the bombings.
“We should stand strong with each other in such a tough time,” the popstar-turned-politician said in a statement.
Ugandan police last month arrested a number of alleged ADF operatives and warned that extremists were believed to be plotting a new attack on “major installations”.
“Today’s breakthrough attacks show that we still need to do more, to pre-empt, penetrate and prevent deadly attacks by domestic extremists in the days to come,” police spokesman Enanga said.
The ADF, historically a Ugandan rebel group, has been accused of killing thousands of civilians in eastern DRC.
In April 2019, IS began to claim some ADF attacks on social media, presenting the group as its regional branch — the Islamic State Central Africa Province, or ISCAP.
In March this year the United States officially linked the ADF to IS.
The ADF is considered by experts to be the bloodiest of more than 120 armed groups that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars a quarter-century ago.
The DRC’s Catholic Church says the ADF has killed around 6,000 civilians since 2013, while a respected monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), blames it for more than 1,200 deaths in the Beni area alone since 2017.
In 2010, twin bombings in Kampala targeting fans watching the World Cup final left 76 people dead, with Al-Shabaab claiming responsibility.
The attack was seen as revenge for Uganda sending troops to Somalia as part of an African Union mission to confront Al-Shabaab.